Government of New Brunswick

The scent and look of a traditional tree is central to the holiday seasonfor a great many people. It’s estimated that 450,000 evergreens are cut each year in New Brunswick. Approximately 370,000 trees are exported to the United States and other international markets where there is a strong demand for quality Christmas trees.

Christmas tree farms practice sustainable forestry, by planting new trees to replace the those which are cut each year. Wherever you get your tree, it's important to think about how you will dispose of it after the holidays. For ideas on how to 'recycle' your natural cut tree instead of disposing of it in the local landfill, see the section called 'Mulching and More'.

Before the ornaments come out of their boxes, give your tree a good drink. Cut trees will dry out especially quickly in the warmth of indoors, so give yours all the water it needs.

Before placing your tree in its stand, make a fresh cut, cutting about 5 1/2 cm (2 inches) off the trunk. This will enable the tree to absorb water easier. Check water levels daily, since the average tree 'drinks' between 1-4 litres (2-8 cups) of water a day.

Artificial trees can be used for years but their metal and plastic won’t break down in the landfill. If you've chosen an artificial tree, pack it away carefully after each use so it will last for a very long time. When you're done with it, try to keep it out of the landfill a little longer by finding it another home ... perhaps through a church, charity or day care centre.


The Living Tree

A great choice for the environment, and fun for the whole family, is a living Christmas tree. Choose a tree you'll want to plant in your yard after the holidays, or ask your local nursery or a landscape professional about trees to enjoy in patio containers, inside or outdoors, season after season.

In New Brunswick, choose a hardy evergreen with the advice of a nursery or landscaper to be sure it will enjoy a long healthy life in this climate.

The tree you choose will depend on where it will eventually grow: pick a dwarf species for life in a container indoors or out, slow-growing trees to plant close to the house, or more majestic specimens if you have plenty of space for mature trees.

If you plan to plant the tree outdoors, prepare a generous-sized planting hole before the ground freezes in the fall. Cover the hole with plywood to prevent accidents, and store the soil where it won't freeze.

Avoid shock by keeping the tree in an unheated garage or shed for a few days before bringing it into the house.

Plan to keep the tree indoors for no more than a week. Set it up away from hot lights, south-facing windows, and other sources of heat. Water it faithfully.

After the holidays, let the tree get used to the cold again by giving it another week in an unheated space.

Plant it in the prepared hole, filling in around the root ball with the reserved earth, and protect it for the rest of the winter with a burlap wrap and a generous layer of mulch like straw or wood chips.


All the Trimmings

Coloured lights twinkling between the branches of a lush evergreentree ... that's one part of the picture of Christmas morning that few of us are willing to part with. While it does make the best energy sense to use as few lights as possible, switching to the low-wattage 'fairy lights' is a good compromise.

Put a timer on the lights to make sure they aren't left on when you leave the house. For safety's sake, be sure to keep paper and all other flammable ornaments well away from light bulbs.

Save some of the packaging that comes into your house or your office in the months before the holidays, and decorate a truly 'green' tree. Recycling throw-aways into seasonal decorations is a fine craft project for youngsters on those stormy days when 'there's nothing to do.'

  • Cut paper chains or paper-doll chains from discarded accordion-folded computer paper.
  • Cover the cardboard tubes from bathroom tissue with three or four layers of newspaper strips soaked in flour-and-water paste. When the pieces are completely dry, no longer cool to the touch, paint them to look like old-fashioned toy soldiers or turn them into decorative candles by attaching a paper “flame” to the top of one side of the cylinder.
  • Cut stars, snowflakes and spirals from the foil tops of yogurt or juice containers, or roll old tinfoil into small balls to thread together for a tinsel chain.
  • Make miniature gifts to decorate the tree: punch holes through the lids of empty film canisters and loop ribbon or yarn through the hole. Wrap the canister in scraps of gift paper or foil, and replace the lid. Each ornament could hold a note (like a 'fortune cookie') to be opened and read on Christmas Eve.
  • Collect the green plastic holders when you or your friends receive cut flowers from a florist, slip an ornament hook through the loop on the rubber end, and hang them on the tree as 'icicles'.
  • Small toys, from 'Hot Wheels' cars to tiny stuffed creatures, can be hung on the tree with string.
  • Cut cereal-box cardboard into hearts or wreath shapes, spread them with glue and dip them in potpourri, then hang with a loop of ribbon. These 'Victorian' ornaments are a good use for potpourri even when its scent has faded.
  • Glue or tape a piece of ribbon on the back of a wallet-size photo of your child, family, pet or other personal scene, or use pictures cut from old greeting cards.
  • Check your local library for a book on origami, to make simple folded-paper figures from used gift wrap or brightly coloured magazine and catalogue pages.
  • String or paste together feathers, beads, and imitation or dried flowers, from old hats, costume jewellery, or clothing , into original decorations for the tree.
  • Make a garland by stringing old buttons on twine or embroidery thread, making knots between each button to give the garland length.

The possibilities for natural ornaments are unlimited: pine cones, feathers, berries, dried seed pods and flowers, and corn husks shaped into wreaths or dolls, for example. And any of these decorations can go into the compost pile when you're finished with them.

How about edible tree trimmings? Popcorn chains and popcorn balls, cranberry wreaths, candy canes, nuts in the shell, apple rings, cinnamon sticks, and gingerbread cookies are among the traditional Christmas tree decorations that are back in fashion again. What your family doesn’t nibble away, the birds or the compost can use.

If you choose to buy ornaments instead of making your own, look for durable products that will last for many years before they need to be replaced. With care, for example, glass 'icicles' can be used again and again. (The tinsel strands made of foil or plastic are reusable too, but are not as practical and don't last as long.) Pack all decorations away carefully after each use, and they may become the treasured heirlooms of another generation.


Mulching and More

Many New Brunswick communities have started programs to collect and recycle cut trees. Some are collected to protect shorelines from soil erosion. Others are ground into wood chips for mulch in gardens. But even if programs like these aren't available in your area, your tree can still enjoy a useful life after Christmas.

Remove all pieces of metal and plastic, prop the tree up in your yard, and decorate its branches with winter food for wild birds:

  • pine cones coated with sugarless peanut butter and rolled in bird seed
  • popcorn and cranberries
  • apple peelings
  • balls of suet and seeds

If your home has a wood stove or fireplace, you can dry the tree trunk for firewood. Be sure not to burn the dry branches and needles: they can coat the chimney and flu with a flammable tar, known as creosote.

Cut small branches to place around perennial plants, trapping the snow that protects their roots, and save the stronger branches to use as garden stakes when spring comes. Needles and the smallest twigs can go into the compost.